German Press Review: Racing on the Autobahn | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 19.02.2004
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German Press Review: Racing on the Autobahn

German newspaper editorials on Thursday commented on the so-called autobahn racer, who was given a hard sentence for tailgating the driver of another vehicle, pushing her and her young daughter, to their death.

German papers largely praised a court in Karlsruhe for giving a reckless driver a tough sentence for causing a deadly accident, but they disagreed whether it will stop others from speeding on the autobahn.

Die Welt from Berlin thinks the verdict will have a positive effect. The paper was relieved that finally a German court has pointed out the negligent homicide that every day drivers risk causing on the autobahn and is often only avoided at the last second. And also, finally, racing has consequences. The judgment sends two signals, wrote Die Welt: first that the behavior of some drivers is not only problematic and disorderly, but criminal. And second, that it's not useless to try to pursue legal means against autobahn speeders.

The Leipziger Volkszeitung, however, wrote that the decision won't change the behavior of other autobahn racers. The paper said that the supposed deterrent effects of the decision won't help stop the war on the autobahn. Only a police patrol will do that, which pulls racers out of their intoxication with speed, and hits them hard with penalties. For everybody else, there's a motto that might save their lives: slower cars should give way.

The Braunschweiger Zeitung, agreed that the judgment won't make a difference. Aggressive drivers don't really care, the paper wrote, if their brutality is deadly. Most of them don't even notice when they drive people off the road. The paper asked, how are they going to see what's going on left and right behind them, if they're just looking straight forward? The court's decision is not going to make other autobahn drivers more careful, because first they need to have some kind of insight into their actions. And the defendant in the case never showed that insight, lamented the paper. The Stuttgarter Zeitung -- Stuttgart is the home DaimlerChrysler, where the autobahn racer had worked -- pointed out that negligent homicide in driving had formerly brought about only probationary sentences. In this case, the court decided not for probation but for prison. The paper said the court heard an above-average number of witnesses and saw an above-average amount of evidence. And the court also considered that the victim may have overreacted to the autobahn racer, causing her death. So the Stuttgarter Zeitung called the decision a strong one, but measured.